Spring bulbs herald the beginning of the gardening season, and provide lovely pops of colour in pots and borders after winter. The show then continues with summer- and autumn-flowering bulbs. But when should you plant bulbs to make sure they flower in the season you want them to? Here we break down the answer to the question: when to plant bulbs, including when spring bulbs should be planted.

Tulipa 'Black Hero'
© Jason Ingram

When to plant spring bulbs


Spring bulbs herald the arrival of spring. They include crocus, snowdrops, daffodils, tulips and alliums but don't forget iris, camassia, scilla, muscari, fritillaria and the lovely tiny narcissi. Spring bulbs should be planted in autumn.

When to plant daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs: plant by the end of September if you want them to flower in March.

When to plant fritillary bulbs: plant fritillaries in September and October.

When to plant allium bulbs: can be planted in late September, October or November.

When to plant snowdrop bulbs: snowdrop bulbs should not be planted later than early October. Many people, however, prefer to plant snowdrops in the green in late winter.

When to plant crocus and scilla bulbs: smaller flowered bulbs such as crocus and scilla should be planted in the first half of October.

When to plant tulip bulbs: tulips should be planted later in autumn, in November (or even December) so that the colder weather has wiped out any viruses.

Forgotten to plant your spring bulbs?

Don't worry. Get them in the ground as soon as you can, discarding any that are soft or rotten, and you may be surprised at how they thrive nonetheless. It will depend on the severity of your winter but you might find that your late-planted bulbs are quite happy.

Planting spring bulbs in the green

Some spring bulbs, such as snowdrops and bluebells, can be planted in the green (when they have leaves but have not yet flowered) in late winter. Bulbs in the green can be bought online or by mail order.

Crocus Thirkeanus
Crocus thirkeanus © Jason Ingram

Plan ahead to make sure you have the bulbs you want, in time for planting. Head to our piece on bulb suppliers for where to buy your bulbs, and don't miss our feature on designers picking their favourite spring bulbs to plant in autumn too.

Here's more information on how to plant spring borders alongside perennials.

A selection of spring bulbs

When to plant summer flowering bulbs


Summer flowering bulbs can be planted in spring. Summer-flowering bulbs include lilies, dahlias, dierama, gladioli and crocosmia.

Read our feature on the best summer bulbs to plant in spring.

Crocosmia 'Hellfire'
Crocosmia 'Hellfire' © Jason Ingram

When to plant autumn-flowering bulbs


Plant autumn-flowering bulbs, such as nerines and amarines and colchicums by late summer. To flower well, nerine bulbs need to be baked by the sun, so avoid planting them where they will be overshadowed by other plants. Plant the bulbs just below the surface of the soil in large clumps. In cold areas mulch them after they have finished flowering to give extra protection during wet and cold winters.

Amarine tubergenii Belladiva Series
Amarine tubergenii Belladiva Series © Jason Ingram

When to plant winter-flowering bulbs


There are a series of bulbs that will happily flower over winter indoors in pots, including Hippeastrum (amaryllis) and paperwhite narcissi, which will flower six to eight weeks after planting.

Forcing bulbs

Forcing bulbs is a way to manipulate outdoor spring bulbs so that they flower early, bringing a much-need burst of colour into the home during the winter months when very little is happening in the garden. It's a great way of adding colour to a house during winter. Here's our guide on forcing bulbs.

Check out our recommended bulb vases.

Planting bulbs in pots

Planting bulbs in pots offers the potential for a beautiful display on a terrace or balcony. It’s worth taking the time to consider planting combinations, where you want the display to sit, plus the size and style of your pot.

Here's our advice on planting bulbs in pots.


Don't miss our guide to the best spring bulbs to plant


Daisy Bowie-Sell is digital editor of Gardens Illustrated. She has previously worked as a journalist for publications including the Daily Telegraph, WhatsOnStage and Time Out London